I've never been more impatient in my life. I've created my own foot path from pacing in the cell, back and forth, back and forth. Soon, I'll dig myself down deep enough to find an escape out of this place.
At least I thought that was possible until Renit snapped at me to sit down, complaining I was kicking up too much dust.
The king's acceptance or denial can decide Renit's life. If he agrees, we could be out of here within days and back in the safety of the capital. The rebels will merely be a whisper in our past and I won't have to deal with Tesha's attitude anymore and the way she likes to smack her delicious sounding food near our cell to make us jealous.
If the king denies coming to rescue us, we could be here for the unforeseen future. There is no telling what will happen, if the rebels decide to kill Renit then or let him go because clearly, there is no longer a use for him.
We only have two options and neither of them sit well in my stomach.
All I know is that I want to leave. I've never wanted freedom more in my life, considering all those days in Arego spent wanting to visit the capital and see something other than the dirt streets and a quiet market holding the same goods, week after week. I wanted to explore and see the world beyond those cliffsides.
I want to see them again…or anything other than this cell.
I've been down here long enough to the point the skeleton in the other cell doesn't bother me. Nothing bothers me, not the looming screams and cries in the mines, the loud crack of the gibbet sending another slave to their death, and the whispers of the rebels. Words about the prince needing to die. And his friend, too.
We can eat as many meals as we want in this cell but that will do nothing if we're both dead in the end. Bren would never kill me but he wouldn't hesitate to take Renit's life, even knowing I'd hate him for the rest of his. Unless he cares about me that much to spare not only my breathing but the prince's as well. I can only hope.
To think only months ago all I had was hope. I spoke about hope like that was my purpose in life and there was nothing more than what was inside that village of broken people—as broken as the skeleton in that cell. There's a whole world out here and again, I'm trapped. This time, my company is the prince and not my family.
I'm pacing again, this time on the opposite side of the cell so Renit doesn't scream at me. The healers haven't come to solve more of the infection so he's currently drooping, sweat beading his brow and his hands limp in his lap. Over and over, he's been forced to fight this. How much longer will he continue?
"Do you think your father will agree?" I question into the dark. The shadows from the nearby candle flicker on the side of his face. This is why Bren left that candle there, to release some of his built-up power in anticipation of the king. They've planned this all along—every last step of it and now, we're at a standstill.
I try to avoid looking at that flickering candle and the truth it holds. A promise that Bren is always there, even if I don't want him to be. If my power shares the truth with me, warnings that I'm in danger, does his relay information as well? Like what we whisper about down here, alone in the dark?
Renit shifts his stare up to me, annoyance in his eyes. "I don't know, spitfire, you tell me. Would your father come for you?" He grogs.
"Of course he would, he's my father." I scoff and cross my arms over my chest to block out the evening chill. There's a breeze in the air tonight and through the draft in the stairway, we're getting every last bit of it.
"That's where you and I differ. My father is not your father, we don't share love. Would you expect my father to come and rescue the son that is merely a backup for the kingdom? An asset rather than blood?" Renit tips his head back against the stone.
"You need to have hope. You are still a prince and your father will rescue you because otherwise, the kingdom will frown upon his actions. That alone will start another rebellion against his crown—this time full of complaining citizens." I sit down next to him and drag the cold cloth over his forehead. The draft is good for one thing and that is keeping everything cold, including the cloth in my fingertips. Although it numbs my skin, the damp fabric is a relief to Renit.
A smile twitches on his lips and he closes his eyes. Every second he spends fighting is another he's giving up. Every second we're waiting for his father is another Renit is realizing that his own blood may not come for him. Silas, maybe, if the crown prince is still alive. But if the king doesn't come, we will have all the answers we need as his condition. If he doesn't come, the king will reveal he doesn't need his backup anymore.
I soothe Renit for as long as he will allow, even going so far as to let him lie in my lap, the side of his head resting against my thigh. I run my fingers through his hair as he finally drifts off to sleep amid the whispering going on outside of the cell. My fingers trace over the side of his face and behind his ear, memorizing every little spot for later use. His skin, lined with sweat, is still soft—proving there is something other than the warrior underneath.
If I tell him that, he'll turn back into a grumpy prince.
I drift off to sleep, too, resting my head against the wall until someone clears their throat. I snort myself awake, my head falls forward, and through the blinks, I recognize Bren standing on the other side of the bars. He watches the two of us, studying our close proximity, and hurt flashes in his eyes. Jealousy. But he doesn't comment on it.
Instead, he says, "We received word. The king is not coming."